On July 10, I was able to see firsthand the official removal of the confederate flag from outside the South Carolina state capitol on the morning of July 10. This significant and historical moment can be summed up into one word: progress.
For many decades, the Confederate flag has become synonymic as Southern white symbol for “heritage.” For people of color such as myself, the view towards this red, white and blue symbol is quite different.
Growing up on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, the images of “southern pride” and “heritage” echoes throughout the area. I was not taught the true meaning of the flag during my childhood, as its significance would be embedded into my mind as a symbolic meaning of having southern pride.
Little did I know that once I began to seek further understanding behind it that I would begin to question my surroundings at an early age.
I can recall the flag waving into the wind near a local, community park, flying peacefully outside a local restaurant and hanging untouched outside of a neighbor’s porch. I would never question it because I assumed that it only meant being proud of being from the South. I would have peers, both white and black, at my elementary and middle schools who would wear outfits with the flag etched into their clothing, stitched onto their ball caps or hanging on their belongings such as on key chains.
My first experience of racism didn’t really hit me until about the age of 12 until a peer would called me the N-word.
Honestly, I was more startled than angry because my mother brought me up to not judge someone because of their skin color, but by the “content of their character,” as the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. I would often wonder, even to this day, if his beliefs correlated with what I had seen so much around me.
It slowly began to connect. As I grew older of my surroundings that I would begin to discover that the Confederate flag was not about southern pride. It was so closely intertwined with racism.
Fast forward to the present, I think about the recent Charleston church shooting on the evening of June 17, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, which resulted in nine people being murdered by 21-year-old Dylann Roof.
In Roof’s manifesto, he proclaims to have affiliations with the confederate flag, sparking national speculations that his act was a hate crime. This, to me, was not only a hate crime, but also an act of domestic terrorism, which seemed to be tied to the Confederate flag.
It is unfortunate that nine Black lives were taken from the “The Holy City.” These lives were violently stolen away from families, friends and supporters in a place of worship to spark this action to finally remove this flag. Contrary to many, this was necessary and long overdue.
But yesterday I witnessed the act of the removal of the confederate flag from the state capitol. This is a small but much needed victory towards social justice for people of color, civil rights and Blackness.
We must be aware to the fact that racism is not suddenly eradicated because this symbolism of hatred has been taken down in my home state.
As we hear “white tears” reflecting upon this decision, we can find comfort in knowing that symbolism is and has always been a very powerful tool as it creates a bigger impact and movement beyond a symbol itself (i.e. History of the Swastika).
Symbols can psychologically influence one’s belief and morals to transform them into something beyond themselves. In this case, although there are many Confederate flags across the globe, by removing this particular one in its location is a small victory towards the battle, but the war on racism must continue on.
So many of us may now ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” We must continue to go beyond the flagpole, into our communities and the minds of our peers to eliminate one of the greatest enemies in our society: White supremacy.
The fact of the matter is that Black lives always matter. Always. There was never a time where they didn’t matter.
As Black men, women, and the future, we must rise up and should proclaim our Blackness. Empower yourself and yell out what the late “Godfather of Soul” James Brown (a native of Barnwell, S.C.) said: “Say it loud. I’m Black and I’m proud.”
P.S.: Let’s not forget and salute the original that took down the flag first. Thank You Bree Newsome (Twitter: @BreeNewsome), applaud you Black woman.
Also, rest in peace to the original flag protestor, Emmett “Sonny” Eddy Jr., also known to us from S.C. as “Rev. E. Slave.